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The “Root Cause” of AIDS

Jim Burroway

October 20th, 2006

Focus on the Family, in an October 19th online CitizenLink article, joins the chorus in denouncing U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s remarks at the swearing-in ceremony for Mark Dybul as deputy global AIDS coordinator. Ambassador Dybul, who is openly gay, was joined by his partner Jason Claire, who held the Bible as Secretary Rice administered the oath of office and first lady Laura Bush looked on. Also in attendance was Claire’s mother, who Secretary Rice referred to as Dybul’s mother-in-law.

According to the Focus on the Family report, Secretary Rice’s chief of staff tried to backpeddle a bit, but Focus wasn’t having any of it:

Tom Minnery, senior vice president of government and public policy for Focus on Family, called Rice’s comments “astonishing.”

“This is very provocative,” he said, “and very disappointing.”

In response to inquiries from Focus, Minnery heard from the State Department on Wednesday.

“Secretary Rice’s chief of staff called to say it was a mix-up,” he said. “That somebody should have checked this mother-in-law business, didn’t do it, and it got out.”

Perhaps, but such nuances are Rice’s stock in trade. Besides, she was standing right next to Dybul’s partner as he held the Bible for the swearing-in.

Peter Sprigg, vice president for policy at the Family Research Council, claimed this was evidence that “they’re really rather apathetic about the efforts to defend traditional marriage.” He also went on to cite a “conflict of interest” in having a gay man lead HIV/AIDS prevention efforts:

“If we are not willing to say that men should not engage in sex with other men,” Sprigg noted, “then we are really not willing to tackle the root causes of the AIDS problem.”

Sprigg added it’s unlikely a gay man can effectively articulate that point — if it’s still the point the administration wants to make

Clearly Peter Sprigg needs to be much more educated on the issue. Gay men are quite capable of articulating how to prevent AIDS. What other explaination is there for the dramatic drop in AIDS cases since the mid-1990’s? Since then, new AIDS cases fell by more than 60% in New York and Los Angeles while in San Francisco — that ever famous gay mecca — that drop was more than 80%.

But when it comes to “root causes of the AIDS problem,” it’s not men having sex with men. It’s people of all sexual orientations engaging in unsafe sexual practices. AIDS began as a heterosexually transmitted disease which was quietly killing generations in the Congo River basin of central Africa since the late 1950’s, long before the deaths of five gay men in Los Angeles grabbed the medical community’s attention twenty-five years ago. (You can read more about it in our report Opportunistic Infections.)

Demagoguery surrounding HIV/AIDS has been a persistent obstacle in dealing with AIDS, both here and around the world. Words like these continue to shore up the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. And as long as that stigma continues, real answers to the problem will continue to remain elusive.

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